Cyberbullied son couldn’t see way out: mum

Grieving mother Dina Halkic likens social media to a loaded gun.


She says her 17-year-old son, Allem, was driven to suicide because of relentless cyberbullying in 2009.

Mrs Halkic and her husband had no idea their son was feeling troubled and were stunned when they saw messages on his phone and social media after his death.

“We could not believe what we were seeing,” Mrs Halkic told an anti-bullying event in Melbourne on Friday.

“The text messages and over 300 posts in the weeks leading to our son’s death, they were relentless, they were very harsh, derogatory comments.

“Unfortunately my son couldn’t see a way out and that was his only option.”

The Altona Meadows teenager had received derogatory and threatening messages on his phone and through social networking sites from a former friend following a falling-out.

Mrs Halkic says she and her husband had no idea what had been going on in the life of the Altona Meadows teenager.

“He was so, so smart and intelligent and he had aspirations and dreams,” she said.

“We felt so much to blame. We just didn’t understand it.”

She said they could not let another family go through what they had and more education was needed.

“We had no ideas of the dangers that could happen inside the house,” she said.

“(Social media) is like a loaded gun that you give your child.

“To take his own life, our son didn’t deserve that.”

Bully Zero Australia Foundation, which provides care to bullying victims, predicts that by 2020, cyberbullying will be the biggest social issue facing Australians.

“Hug your kids because there’s a lot of families out there, in fact almost 300 of them this year, that won’t be able to hug their children as a result of the scourge of cyberbullying,” foundation chief executive Oscar Yildiz told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

Shane Phillip Gerada, who had sent Allem five threatening text messages in the hours leading up to his death, was convicted in 2010 of one count of stalking. He was sentenced to an 18-month community-based order.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14.

O’Farrell backs school fingerprinting

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has backed the right of schools to use fingerprint scanners to track whether kids are skipping class.


Several public schools are using hi-tech scanners to record when students enter and leave school across the state.

“I think that’s a good thing because it reflects our policy of `local schools, local decisions’, which enables schools to make decisions that meet the needs of their communities,” Mr O’Farrell told reporters.

Asked whether he had any privacy concerns, the premier said the decision to use the technology was ultimately a matter for individual schools.

“If school communities want to make decisions, whether about the opening hours of schools or whether about these sorts of issues, I’m happy to back them,” Mr O’Farrell said.

Civil Liberties Australia have concerns over fingerprint scanning students.

“We support proper use of new technology, but this development has inherent dangers which should be evaluated by schools, their governing bodies and parents,” Civil Liberties Australia CEO Bill Rowlings said.

“Schools and education authorities must put robust rules in place for how technology is used and administered, and the data safeguarded.

“A scan on arrival just tells you who passed through the school gates on the way in.

“The only way to ensure a child is at school all day is to fingerprint the student every half hour.

“So pretty soon children will be scanned into every classroom, every separate facility within the school grounds.

“If that is done, suddenly schools will become mini-surveillance states.”

Dank talks tough on ASADA at luncheon

Essendon AFL players won’t be sent any infraction notices by ASADA, according to controversial sports scientist Stephen Dank.


Dank, who refuses to speak to ASADA over its investigation into Essendon’s use of supplements in 2012, says every drug/supplement was well-managed and documented and the supplement program was known by everyone in the football department.

Dank spoke at a fundraiser luncheon for the Riddell Football Netball Club on Friday that attracted over 700 guests at Crown Casino.

Security staff barred some, but not all, media from attending.

Guests were told to put their phones away and refrain from filming Dank’s on-stage appearance.

Last week, ASADA sent Dank a letter alleging anti-doping breaches while he ran the supplements program at Essendon.

Dank said the next time he speaks about the events of 2011 and 2012 will be in the Federal Court, where he’s taking action against ASADA, heraldsun广西桑拿,广西桑拿网, reports.

The question of what exactly was injected into Essendon players was not addressed by Dank, although he was happy to talk about his knowledge of biochemistry.

Dank said he would never talk to ASADA because of various leaks to the media, which he blamed on the organisation.

Guests emerged from the function with only good things to say about Dank, judging by about a dozen people who stopped to chat to waiting media after the three-hour gathering.

One punter said he didn’t have much time for Dank before Friday, but in person he found him to be quite convincing.

AFL chief Andrew Demetriou said Dank had been given plenty of chances to speak to the relevant authorities and he questioned whether a footy luncheon was the right forum.

“He’s now been sent a letter, a show cause, for 34 particular issues and I hope he responds,” Demetriou said on Friday.

“That’s the proper and appropriate forum for him to do that.”

Mazda’s MX-5 roadster is still popular

The Mazda MX-5 Miata is the best-selling two-seater convertible of all time and the stuff of motoring legends.


According to one oft-cited story, the car may owe its genesis to an American motoring journalist, Bob Hall. He was asked in 1979 at a meeting of top executives attended by Mazda’s development director Kenichi Yamamoto what type of car the Japanese firm should be building.

“A compact, open two-seater”, was Hall’s reply. The Japanese technician listened politely and made copious notes.

Hall enthused about a model in the spirit of an MGB or an Alfa Spider, “but reliable enough to start up on a rainy day”. The aim was to come up with a car that offered a pure driving experience rather than straight-line tarmac performance.

It took 10 years for the first Miata to appear, but that conversation marks the start of a runaway success story that continues to this day and has changed the face of motoring.

The wraps came off the MX-5 roadster for the first time at the Chicago Auto Show 25 years ago. It revived near-dormant enthusiasm for roadsters and encouraged other manufacturers to think along similar lines.

Without the Miata’s success, there would have been no Mercedes SLK, Audi TT or BMW Z4, leading designers in Stuttgart, Ingolstadt or Munich agree. “It was the MX-5 that brought back the affordable roadster and paved the way for a host of open two-seaters,” says Cologne-based designer Paolo Tumminelli.

Development chief Yamamoto was sceptical at first.

He spent a whole day whizzing around the base of Mount Fuji on twisty roads in a British-made Triumph Spitfire before emerging with a smile on his face and the conviction that a Mazda roadster would work.

He went on to defend what became known as Project 729 against all comers. With its trademark pop-up headlamps, the Miata caused a sensation when it first broke cover in Chicago in 1989.

It became a favourite with well-heeled brokers on New York’s Wall Street, who were soon paying the kind of premium normally reserved for Porsche or Ferrari models in order to secure an example before the regular delivery time.

The formula for the success of the MX-5 is easily explained.

There are similar cars that consume less fuel or offer more passenger space and a larger boot for luggage. Yet few cars in this class had the Miata’s light touch and feel, a two-seater with just enough room for an attache case, but designed for fresh-air motoring pleasure.

Speed was not of the essence either. It was enough to keep driving interesting but certainly not in the Porsche class. With just 90 horsepower on tap, the car reached 100km/h from zero in 10.6 seconds.

With a top speed of 175 km/h the low-profile Japanese car was no racer.

“Yet anyone who has driven one of these little roadsters across the Alps will have no need of a Porsche,” says Dieter Becker of the German MX-5 Blue Sky Club based in Cologne.

The feathery weight of the first examples – which tipped the scales at just 981 kilograms – along with the low-slung driving position, a slick, close-ratio gearbox and rear-wheel drive combined to “create the perfect car for a twisty country road,” Becker says.

The enthusiasm is shared by fans the world over and the MX-5 turned out to be a good business proposition for Mazda.

Sales proved to be steady and up until 1998 the company had moved 431,506 examples of the model, which has the internal codename NA.

Its successor, the NB, racked up 291,123 registrations and the third generation, the NC, is still going strong.

Overall sales stand at well in excess of 900,000 units.

In 2000 the MX-5 even earned an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s best-selling open sports car. The current model boasts more power, with upward of 126 horses available, and at 1100kg the MX-5 is still a lightweight.

Admittedly it costs double what the original sold for 25 years ago.

“Compared to the price of a red-blooded sports car, it is still cheap,” Becker insists. Despite the success, the Mazda MX-5 has retained its reputation as an underdog.

“People sometimes look askance at you when you are sitting in an expensive, upmarket roadster, but people tend to smile when you are at the wheel of an MX-5,” Becker says.

While people like Becker look after cherished examples of the Miata, the Japanese maker is working flat out to come up with a worthy replacement. Roadster fans will only have to wait until mid-2015 at the very latest, Mazda sources have revealed.

Diamondbacks pitcher battles flight fear

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw nearly didn’t come to Australia because his club wanted him wrapped in cotton wool.


His Arizona Diamondbacks counterpart Wade Miley almost didn’t make it to the MLB season-opener due to his crippling fear of flying.

As a professional baseball player in the United States, with 81 road trips a season, there can’t be a worse condition to have.

Especially when you’re told at the last-minute there’s an injury to the No.1 pitcher, and you’re required on the next 15-hour flight to Sydney.

Dodgers star Zach Greinke said he had “zero interest in coming to Australia.”

Miley’s issue with the great southern land was a little more complex.

“There’s nothing wrong with Sydney, Australia. It was just, ‘is there not a train that runs around here or anything?'” he said.

“Now I’m starting to get nervous about the flight back. I’d rather stay here.

“I remember thinking when I was a kid, ‘I’ll never fly.’ I just don’t feel safe.

“But when it came down to it I had to go.

“My palms are sweaty, I’m squeezing the armrail trying to help the pilot fly.”

Many critics are already writing off the Diamondbacks’ season because their No.1 starter Patrick Corbin is out for the year with an elbow injury.

But even though he had to hold a special conference with Miley at his ranch just to get him on a plane, Diamondbacks coach Kirk Gibson has faith in the 27-year-old left-armer to match it with Kershaw, the highest-paid player in baseball.

“I filled him in several facts about it. I think he realises that flying is safer than a lot of things that he does every day,” Gibson said.

Sticky flag

Pair charged with taking part in Syria war

A Sydney man alleged to have organised Australians to fight in Syria’s civil war, and another who was allegedly on his way to the frontline, are now behind bars.


A four-month operation by the Australian Federal Police and NSW Police snagged the pair on rarely used foreign incursion charges on Tuesday.

The first man, Hamdi Alqudsi, is alleged to be the linchpin in a criminal group recruiting Australian men to fight with terrorist groups Jabhat al-Nusra and affiliates of al-Qaeda.

The 39-year-old allegedly organised travel and overseas contacts for seven Australians, including 23-year-old Amin Mohammed, who was arrested at Brisbane Airport on Tuesday.

Alqudsi, of St Helens Park, will be freed on bail provided he can raise a $10,000 surety, Bankstown Local Court heard.

He is banned from contacting Mohammed and prosecution witnesses, many of whom are overseas, before his next court appearance in February.

Earlier, NSW commissioner of special operations Catherine Burn told reporters his arrest “puts a significant dent” into a network recruiting young Australians for the war.

At Burwood Local Court, Mohammed’s lawyer Peter Allport argued his client had planned to travel to Syria, but there was no evidence to suggest it was to take part in the war.

“They may have been going as humanitarian workers,” he told the court.

Mohammed had planned to travel on to Turkey and Denmark to meet up with a girl as part of a family arranged marriage, he said.

Mr Allport also argued recorded phone conversations should be interpreted liberally given they were in Arabic, which relies on “description, emotion and colour” for effect.

Mohammed was granted bail on conditions including that he surrender his passport, but was unable on Tuesday to raise $5000 a surety.

He will remain behind bars until a February court date.

The AFP says around 100 Australians are suspected of being involved in the Syrian conflict at the moment.

Investigations into others involved in the network are continuing, with more arrests expected.

The men are not involved in any terrorism threat against Australia.

The AFP says Alqudsi and Mohammed are the first Australians to be charged with foreign incursion offences in relation to the Syrian conflict.

Victorian grandfather Gerard Michael Little, 46, was in September sentenced to seven months and six days jail in time already served for the same offence.

Little had pleaded guilty to training to fight in the West Papuan independence movement.

The Crimes (Foreign Incursions and Recruitment) Act 1978 makes it an offence to travel to a foreign state – or assist someone to travel – with the intention to engage in hostile activity, or to train or be trained in hostile activities.

Sticky flag

Slater’s knee concern here to stay: Storm

Melbourne coach Craig Bellamy is resigned to star fullback Billy Slater having to nurse his knee problem for the rest of his rugby league career.


Slater overcame a knee injury to be one of standout players in Australia’s World Cup final win over New Zealand in England at the weekend.

He had hurt his left knee a fortnight before the final and only made the decider after intensive treatment.

“When he first hurt it in Origin last year, the medical advice then was that it’s going to be an issue for the rest of his career,” Bellamy said on Tuesday.

“It’s going to take some managing and that’s what it is at the moment.”

But Bellamy said he never had concerns about Slater playing in the final.

“We were very confident that Tim (Kangaroos coach Tim Sheens) and the medical staff wouldn’t let him play unless he was (right),” Bellamy said.

Bellamy also took the chance for a quiet dig at NRL referees ahead of next season.

“It was really good to see he got a couple of penalties as well,” Bellamy said of Slater in the World Cup.

“He was taken without the ball a couple of times and the English referee picked that up.

“Hopefully there’s a couple of signs there that our referees might be able to see the same thing next year.”

But Bellamy was less pleased about the scheduling pressures on the game’s biggest stars like Slater.

He would like to see a shorter World Cup format in future and would prefer no NRL games during the State Of Origin schedule.

The Storm’s World Cup representatives won’t resume training with the club until late January.

“All of us here at club-land are worried about the workload of our elite players,” Bellamy said.

“Us coaches have been going on about that for a while.”

Sticky flag

Barba can expect tough reception: Price

Canterbury legend Steve Price says Ben Barba’s possible first round NRL matchup with the Bulldogs next season could garner a similar reaction to that which Sonny Bill Williams was given in his first game against the blue and whites.


With the NRL draw to be released on Wednesday, rumours are rife Barba’s Brisbane will meet the Bulldogs at ANZ Stadium in the season’s first Friday night fixture as part of a blockbuster opening to the 2014 premiership.

Barba’s departure from Belmore wasn’t as controversial as Williams’ departure in 2008 but was greeted acrimoniously by certain sections of the Bulldogs Army.

Price said Barba could expect to receive a cool welcome from Bulldogs fans in a backhanded compliment for what he did for the club, similar to what Williams was given when he turned out against his former club in Roosters colours earlier this year.

“Benny was much loved by Bulldogs supporters, I’m sure they were sad to see him go,” Price said.

“Most people I think would understand why he left but they will rip into him.

“But he won’t let it worry him, he will just go out there and play his footy.

“As a player I would rather it was the first game, you get into it and move on.”

The probable Canterbury v Brisbane match on Friday March 7 will likely follow the Thursday night opener between bitter rivals South Sydney and Sydney Roosters at the same venue as the tricolours begin their premiership defence.

Other round one talking points include:

– Sam Tomkins’ first game for the Warriors

– William Hopoate’s first NRL game in over two years for Parramatta

– How Manly will respond to their grand final loss and;

– How Eric Grothe will perform in what will be his first game of NRL after three years of retirement if he turns out for Cronulla in a slated Monday night fixture.

Much focus will be on Jamie Soward’s first game for Penrith and a new-look St George-Illawarra outfit led by under siege coach Steve Price.

Gold Coast mentor John Cartwright will be keen for a good start to the season after a few lean years with former North Queensland coach Neil Henry alongside him in an assistant’s role.

Rookie coach Paul Green will coach the Cowboys in his first NRL game and Ricky Stuart returns to Canberra in a bid to reinvigorate the club with whom he won three premierships.

The ARL Commission has already confirmed the State of Origin dates for next season as 28 May (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane), 18 June (ANZ Stadium, Sydney), and 9 July (Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane).

Armstrong might do one-on-one race

Disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong could be warming to an unofficial challenge from Australian triathlon star Chris McCormack.


Armstrong was aiming to race at last year’s Hawaiian Ironman triathlon world championships when he was banned from all organised sport for life because of doping offences.

The retired professional cyclist was also stripped of his record seven Tour de France titles.

But McCormack, a two-time winner at Hawaii, is keen to organise a one-on-one private race against the Texan that would not have any sanctioning.

Armstrong’s Twitter post on Tuesday suggested he is open to the idea.

“Hey @MaccaNow – if you’re serious then gimme a call. Let’s discuss,” Armstrong said.

The Twitter post came a day after a video interview with McCormack was posted on the Triathlete Magazine website.

“Lance has done some horrible things and some amazing things athletically,” McCormack said.

“You know, he’s still a competitor, and I’ve always been inspired by racing competitors.

“I read an interview recently, where he believed he could win the Ironman world championships.

“I’m like `hey man, you can’t go and make those sorts of statements without backing them up – so if you really think you can win the Ironman world championships, come and race me.

“Let’s go to the back of Austin (Armstrong’s home town) – you and me – no-one around and let’s race.”

McCormack is one of Australia’s most successful – and outspoken – triathletes and won Hawaii in 2007 and ’10.

He missed this year’s edition in October because of glandular fever.

The former world Olympic-distance triathlon champion has moved to Thailand, where he is executive chairman of a Phuket sports resort.

McCormack, 40, plans to keep competing next year in official triathlons.

China space debris hits homes

Debris from the rocket carrying China’s first moon rover has plummeted to earth in a village more than a thousand kilometres from the launch site, crashing into two homes, a report says.


The incident about nine minutes after the launch of the Chang’e-3 mission early on Monday happened in Suining county in the central province of Hunan, which has been hit by space wreckage nearly 20 times, the Xiaoxiang Morning Post said.

“Three of the roof beams have crashed down on our house, and a big hole has been punched into our barn,” one local resident told the paper.

“The huge sound scared the living daylights out of me,” said another.

A picture showed a somewhat baffled-looking villager peering at the curved shape of what appeared to be a rocket nose-cone, below a gaping hole in his roof.

Authorities gave the residents 10,800 yuan ($A1,980) and 5,200 yuan in compensation, the paper said. No one was injured.

A Long March-3B carrier rocket, China’s most powerful such vehicle, blasted off at around 1:30 am local time on Monday from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwestern China.

The lunar rover mission is part of China’s ambitious space programme, which has the goal of establishing a permanent space station by 2020 and eventually sending a human to the moon.

But debris from China’s numerous space launches has frequently found its way to Suining county, which has been hit by rocket parts nearly 20 times since the early 1990s, the Xiaoxiang Morning Post reported.

Last May wreckage from a rocket sent up by the Xichang Launch Centre crashed into homes and hit a high-voltage wire in the area, according to the Shanghai Daily News.

In October 2011 a steel frame weighing more than 250 kilograms landed in a field after another satellite launch, and other wreckage pierced a house roof.